The word gratitude is one that seems to be a part of more conversations than ever before, or at least that’s my observation. Maybe that’s because of trends such as the gratitude journal, which includes opening up the book daily to list what you are thankful for in your day. So, why is gratitude important? Is there merit for giving thanks? Here’s what I uncovered in recent research.
The Relationship between Gratitude and Psychological Well-being
When researchers in 2003 focused on how to measure gratitude objectively, they devised the Gratitude Resentment and Appreciation Test or GRAT. They then used this measure to identify how this trait affects subjective well-being, using two different studies.
From these experiments, the researchers concluded that grateful thinking boosts mood and support the valid nature of GRAT. Moreover, they confirmed that gratitude is an important part of subjective well-being.
In addition to showing a link between gratitude and well-being, this research is good to note because it’s a part of the expanding area of Positive Psychology. This research area focuses on current moods and emotional states relative to how you take note of the positive things in your life or around you.
Another study focused on the link between positive psychological interventions and individual happiness scores over more than 400 participants. They noted a rise in these happy scores when the volunteers delivered a gratitude letter to someone they hadn’t thanked for their kindness.
This gratitude activity had a bigger boost in happiness than any of the other interventions in the study. And benefits were for as long as a month.
Furthermore, some studies show that practicing gratitude can improve physical health too.
Studies on Happiness and Physical Health
Before diving into the research, let’s first be clear that we’re not talking causation here. To say that giving thanks makes you healthier isn’t a simple statement as there are so many other factors going on in people’s lives that could affect that relationship. Instead, researchers have begun to look at whether people who practice gratitude benefit from a boost in health.
One such example is a recent study by Portland State University. The participants were acute care nurses, and the research focus was on their satisfaction with patient care. Interestingly, the researchers found that when nurses were thanked more often on the job, that predicted fewer headaches, improved sleep, and better eating habits.
The researchers attributed that relationship to an increase in nurses’ feelings of satisfaction at work. It’s clear in this instance that in a very stressful environment like nursing, receiving gratitude was correlated with an increased focus on self-care.
And that’s a positive thing. Both for the individual and for the organization that will likely see their nurses taking fewer sick days than before.
Limitations of the Research
Of course, these are only a few studies on the positive changes associated with gratitude. So, don’t take this discussion as a sweeping gesture about why gratitude is important.
But, I will say that for me, keeping a gratitude journal helped me during a period when my depression was extremely low. And that leads me to my next point.
Gratitude Journaling as Part of a Larger Treatment Approach
I also want to clarify that keeping a gratitude journal can be a valuable part of a depression or anxiety treatment plan, rather than the only solution. In fact, I encourage you to see a therapist in coordination with journaling as personally that really helped me!
You might also consider seeing a doctor about pharmaceutical solutions, depending on your specific situation – but never take drugs not prescribed for you or take more than instructed by your doctor.
What I’m saying here is that journaling to enhance relationships, for better self-awareness, and other goals, is one part of the puzzle to consider rather than being the only thing I suggest looking at as an option for psychological and physical health. As I said, a gratitude journal helped me improve my thoughts about myself, in coordination with therapy and a prescribed anti-depressant.
Plus, Every Person is Different
Also, please know that as each of us is unique; what works for one person to lift mood or stay healthy under stress will not necessarily work in the same way for someone else, and vice versa. So, find what works best for you, in coordination with a mental health professional and/or a GP.
Thus, it makes sense to have different options to work toward a better quality of life. While you might practice gratitude through writing letters, another person might use a journaling app.
Yup, there’s an app for that! Simply download a gratitude journal to your phone. Using hiMoment, for example, you can use a guided journal of text and photos to combat stress and encourage a confidence boost. It tracks moods and habits to help you be more self-aware of the uplifting moments around you.
One Final Note about Why is Gratitude Important
I wanted to save this point until last! There are many things to appreciate in this world. And for me, it is my parents and my partner. They love me unconditionally, and that gives me strength. The strength of character that comes when you are grateful is amazing, and it can, in turn, help all those around you. Spread the good vibes!
How do you practice gratitude?